Archbishop Kelvin Felix, who has been the head of the Catholic Church in St Lucia for the past eight years, came close to death as he was preparing to enter his car. A 26-year-old man has been apprehended and is to be charged with attempted murder.
Felix’s Roman Collar was cut off his neck by the lone assailant. According to the St Lucia Police, the Roman Collar saved the Archbishop’s life. The incident occurred at 7.45 pm while Felix was speaking to a man on Peynier Street, Castries. A man walked up to the Archbishop and locked his neck. The assailant slashed at Felix’s throat but managed to just cut off the Roman Collar before running away. Witnesses said the man had been lurking around the Cathedral all Wednesday.
Felix was unhurt, but was sent to the hospital in Castries for examination. He was later released and he returned to his presbytery.
A report was made to the police and after investigations were conducted, a 26-year-old man who lives in a depressed area of the capital, was arrested. Up to last night, he was being held without charge. Monsignor Patrick Anthony, the senior cleric responsible for media affairs, informed prime minister Dr Kenny Anthony about the attack. The prime minister summoned the minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Calixte George.
George later held a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and senior church officials where it was agreed that the police would provide a heightened police presence at all church ceremonies throughout the island over this Easter weekend.
According to minister George, “the Government wishes to first of all express its deepest concern to the Archbishop on this unfortunate, irresponsible, reprehensible and abhorrent incident and to assure the Catholic community that they need not fear as adequate security arrangements will be put in place at all church services during the balance of Holy Week.”
Port-of-Spain Archbishop Edward Gilbert spoke with Felix by telephone after the incident and said the Dominican-born cleric was fine physically, but shaken. “I want to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the attempted assassination of Archbishop Felix to encourage all people to continue the ecumenical, interfaith and reason-based effort to build a culture of life in which the life and dignity of every person will be valued and respected.”
This is the second brutal attack on the Catholic Church in St Lucia in the last five years.
On December 31, 2000, two men attacked worshippers at the same cathedral during midnight mass, setting the church ablaze and killing Irish nun Sister Teresa Egan, aged 72. Father Charles Gaillard, who was offering prayers on the altar, suffered burns to his face and had to be flown to neighbouring Martinique for treatment.
Fr Gaillard returned to St Lucia but succumbed to a heart attack in April 2001. Two men — Kim John, 25, and Francis Phillip, 39, were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death and are awaiting execution at the island prison. They said they were sent by God to combat corruption in the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Felix is no stranger to Trinidad and Tobago. He was here in Trinidad for the funeral service of Archbishop Anthony Pantin in 2000. He also attended the installation of Archbishop Gilbert in Port-of-Spain on May 5, 2001. He is a member of the Christian Council of Churches and a past President of the Catholic Bishops of the Caribbean.
Despite his ordeal on Wednesday night, Felix attended a news conference in Castries yesterday at which he said the vicious attack he suffered may well be the result of the hatred for the Catholic Church preached by other religious organisations in St Lucia.
Felix said it has been some time now that certain elements in the society have been exhibiting a type of hatred for the local Catholic Church which has resulted in attacks on his church by some preachers.
He called for legislation to be enacted against such practices as preachers can be heard on radio lambasting the Catholic Church and its preaching. He felt that strong legislation should be targeted especially against those churches that were entering St Lucia and debasing the Catholic Church.